Green out as Minneapolis’ equity leader, city again fails to deliver on equity promises

Tyeastia Green, the first person to head Minneapolis’ Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, is out after only a year on the job. She said she was asked to resign.

Green is accused of lying to the City Council about funding for the “I Am My Ancestors’ Wildest Dreams Expo,” held in February to celebrate the Black community, MPR and Star Tribune reported. The city auditor is reviewing the event’s financials.

I don’t know the truth about what happened with the expo event. Whatever the problems were, they are dwarfed by the city’s ongoing inability to address systemic racism.

Tyeastia Green

History repeats itself

Green wrote city leaders a scathing, 15-page memo to Heather Johnston, City Operations Officer; Fatima Moore, Deputy City Operations Officer; Mayor Jacob Frey; and Nikki Odom, Chief Human Resources Officer, sent March 6. 

Green defended her record, detailed where the city had failed to provide support, and named specific instances of how she felt the city staff and a few Council members had actively undermined her work.

Green said she planned to sue Council member LaTisha Vetaw (4th Ward) for defamation of character.

Vetaw said this morning she couldn’t comment until she had talked to city lawyers. This blog will post her response when available.

Green wrote that the city has a “toxic work environment centered on racism.”

Some might dismiss her complaints as those of a disgruntled employee. However, similar complaints have surfaced before.

The problems Green names in her memo echo complaints made by staff in the city’s Division of Race & Equity, the forerunner of the Department of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

From summer, 2020 to Fall, 2021, all but one of the Division’s staff resigned. There were eight resignations in all, including four African American women, according to a letter sent by current and former staff to Johnston, April 28, 2022. It began: “This letter is the result of building frustrations about ongoing harm caused to current and past City Coordinator Office (CCO) staff, particularly Black and Brown staff. This harm stems from a toxic, anti-Black work culture …”

Green was hired to jump start the city’s equity work. With her departure, the city will have to start over. Again.

A windowless office, allegations of reverse racism

“On my first day, March 28th, 2022, I was placed in a windowless, mouse-infested space that shared a wall with inmates [in the city jail],” Green wrote. “I could hear crying, talking, praying, etc., at various times throughout the day.”

The choice of office space was very telling about the city’s commitment to racial equity, she said.

“I had to beg to be moved to a more suitable place literally. I begged the City Coordinator, I begged several council members, and after six months was moved to a more appropriate location, but still not like the offices of other departments.”

Green had a honeymoon period that lasted about five months, she said. When she started discussing plans for “a significant Black History Month celebration,” sponsored by the city for the community, “I felt a shift in several leaders,” she wrote.

“The central theme from August to the present was that the enterprise leadership would put up every barrier to ensure that I failed.”

(The Star Tribune noted that the expo “was the city’s first African American-centered event” since George Floyd’s murder.)

The expo included a “Black Market” that featured small black owned businesses from around the area, a Healing Garden run by local Minneapolis Practitioners who offered massages and sound bowl sessions, a “Too Dope To Bully Experience,” and a “Brown Skin Girl Empowerment Segment.” The event also included workshops and performances.

Green got conflicting information on fundraising from city staff, she wrote.

The city attorney’s office told her she “couldn’t have only Black people performing at the Black History Month Expo,” because that was “reverse racism.” Asked to comment, the city communications department said the “attorney-client privilege precludes us from answering this specific question.”

The city provided almost no promotional help, only two social media posts.

Green said she learned that a city staff member had investigated the artists slated to perform at the expo “to ensure that no one said anything bad about Minneapolis.”

She said Johnston told her she didn’t want a “bash Minneapolis event, and the people I selected made her nervous.” She asked me to explain my selections, that this event has to be positive, and no negative mentions about the city’s enterprise.

Asked for comment, city communications staff said Johnston “told Ms. Green that the event should be positive and uplifting and that she should ensure that speakers and performers understand that.”  

It begs the question: How do you have discussions about racism and race equity without saying difficult things?

Asked for the city’s comment Green’s letter, city communications staff said “Ms. Green’s memo is under review and professional staff will determine whether further investigation is required. The City has a process for assessing and investigating allegations of discrimination and harassment and is an equal opportunity employer that prohibits discrimination and harassment of any kind.”

Up until the end, Green said city officials were trying to scuttle the expo.

Green left out of key racial equity discussion

The city failed to include Green and her Department in 2022’s most significant and controversial racial justice issues: police reform.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) found probable cause that both the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing. violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act, according to a MDHR report released April, 2022, shortly after Green started her job here.

City leaders and MDHR staff have been in lengthy negotiations over a court-enforceable Consent Decree that would specify changes in policing and accountability measures. Green wasn’t part of those negotiations, she told me last fall. She would have liked to participate, “but it is also not my call,” she said.

Green’s voice also was conspicuously absent on the Roof Depot debate in East Phillips, clearly a racial equity issue. (The city and the neighborhood have very different hopes for the Roof Depot parcel. East Phillips wants to repurpose a vacant warehouse there into a community-owned asset, with an indoor urban farm, affordable housing, and a solar array. The city wants to demolish the warehouse to expand its Public Works yard, which would bring more diesel exhaust to the neighborhood.

Green wrote that prior to her arrival, the Racism as a Public Health Emergency work (which the Council approved in July, 2020) was “stagnant.” The Truth and Reconciliation process (which the city approved in October, 2020) “hadn’t moved at all.”

Now there are frameworks to move them both forward, she wrote.

“As far as I understand, we are now just waiting for funding – which won’t come for quite some time.”

Again, I will wait to see the results of any investigation on Green. But the bottom line is the city has a lot to answer for. They’ve made multiple racial equity commitments, which for now are empty promises. They continue to get pushback from BIPOC leaders they hire that the city creates a toxic environment.

Based on the Council’s actions and Green’s memo, it’s clear there was a lot of bad blood.

The city’s mission statement reads: “Our City government takes strategic action to address climate change, dismantle institutional injustice and close disparities in health, housing, public safety and economic opportunities. In partnership with residents, City leaders help to ensure all communities thrive in a safe and healthy city.”

If that is job #1, something needs to change about the city’s approach to this critical work.

3 thoughts on “Green out as Minneapolis’ equity leader, city again fails to deliver on equity promises

  1. We have a right to voice …to publish..
    We have those rights guaranteed through the amendments…
    We Demand those rights for transparency in a no hostile ..environment…where we won’t be labeled an silenced
    We have the right to life…
    We have those as well as treaty rights
    We are humans.
    Why can’t mayor an the city justify the wrongs you’ve done an continue to do to we Native Americans.
    You are on Stolen Land have the Rights given back in your statements you set up all these so called equality stop lying …stop your stealing give back the land pay the land lords of the so called USA…this is our Turtle Island.
    Stop the violence
    Stop the climate injustice you do.
    Stop lying .


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